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February 8, 2014 / Leslie

2014 Great Backyard Bird Count

The annual Great Backyard Bird Count takes place next weekend, February 14 – 17. The event was started in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. It was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time.

Blue Jay

The Blue Jay, above, is a frequent visitor to my tray feeder. It helps that I leave him a few whole peanuts in the shell, a favorite food, to entice him to return.

Citizen Scientists Needed

The Backyard Bird Count is an opportunity for citizen scientists around the world to help researchers by spending a few minutes next weekend counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are. It’s as easy as looking out your window for 15 minutes or going for a walk at a local park.

People of all ages and skill levels can participate. You do not need to be an expert to contribute. Even if you can only identify the common birds you can still take part in the count.

How to participate

Pine Siskin

The little Pine Siskin on the right is enjoying thistle. Pine Siskins look similar to the American Goldfinch and are winter visitors to the Chicago area. They are irruptive migrants and will only migrate when their food supply becomes scarce. They have not visited my yard this winter. These are the type of trends that scientists are evaluating.

Why Count in February?

You might be wondering why a bird count that originated in North America is held in the coldest month of the year. The reason was to create a snapshot of the distribution of birds just before spring migrations begin in March. Last year a change was made and the count went global, creating snapshots of birds wherever they are in February, regardless of seasons across the hemispheres.

Dark-eyed Junco

The Dark-eyed Junco, above, is a winter migrant across much of North America. They are predictable and return every winter. When they appear in my yard in October I know winter isn’t far behind.

Where to find birds?

Your backyard, at a local park or wildlife refuge, or wherever you like to watch birds.

I count in several places. The easiest is my backyard where I have several feeders and a regular crowd of birds. I can always count on cardinals, finches, woodpeckers and sparrows to stop by for a meal. I also count on the trails at the park and the forest preserve. That may be a little more difficult this year with all the snow and ice, but I am planning on counting if I have to do it from the parking lot! And yes, a parking lot count is perfectly acceptable.

Mourning Doves

The Mourning Doves, above, are year-round residents. They don’t eat thistle but have taken refuge under the dome on the thistle feeder to wait out the storm.

Last Year’s Statistics

Graphic and figures from

Graphic and figures from

Checklists Submitted: 137998 | Total Species Observed: 4258 | Total Individual Birds Counted: 33464616

Will You Join In?

I would love to hear about your experience if you decide to participate. And if you do, stop by and let me know all about it.


Saturday Snapshot was originated by Alyce at At Home With Books. It is now hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.

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Leave a Comment
  1. laurelrainsnow / Feb 8 2014 2:24 pm

    Gorgeous birds…and what a great event! Thanks for sharing…and here’s MY SATURDAY SNAPSHOT POST


  2. Suko / Feb 8 2014 2:47 pm

    Gorgeous photos, as usual! This is such a wonderful event, Leslie.


  3. Beth Hoffman / Feb 8 2014 3:02 pm

    Wonderful photos, Leslie. Thank you so much for making me aware of this project.


  4. Arti / Feb 8 2014 8:16 pm

    That’s a beautiful photo of a Blue Jay. I hear them every now and then but they never come close to my home because I don’t have a feeder. So, I’ve never taken a close up photo of them. All best wishes for a wonderful bird count tomorrow. 😉


    • Leslie / Feb 9 2014 9:49 am

      I have to be fast to photograph him. As you say, they only stop by for food. He eats a few seeds and take the peanuts away to hide somewhere else. So maybe a two minute window for a shot. Sometimes he comes back for a second peanut. 🙂


  5. Paulita / Feb 9 2014 9:18 am

    Your bird pictures are always terrific. Love those mourning doves huddling up in the cold. We had a robin on the porch yesterday and he seemed to not be impressed with the “Wild Bird Seed” we were offering.


    • Leslie / Feb 9 2014 9:43 am

      Robins won’t eat seed. They eat fruit in the winter when insects and worms aren’t available. If you have a tree or shrub that holds its berries over the winter you will find the robins gathering there for lunch.


  6. Susan / Feb 9 2014 2:19 pm

    My sister-in-law is counting this year! We just talked about it last weekend when we were at her Super Bowl party … love your fat little Blue jay. We have four that raid our feeders and bully the birds! The rascals!


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